Questions at conferences – and a schoolboy error

This afternoon I went to the Manchester stand, in case you don’t know Manchester is a small Northern town…

Me explaining black holes and stuff to the Prof.

Me explaining black holes and stuff to the Prof.

The reason for my visit was to hear Professor Brian Cox speak. He formerly of D:Ream fame. But now a BBC celebrity, but a man keen to point out that he is still a researcher. His talk was really interesting – a mix of an advert for Manchester but then some physics stuff.

He is clearly passional about his subject area. He concentrated on two things – which are potentially world changing.

The first is Graphene. A material which was ‘discovered’ in Manchester and is now the subject of funding to exploit its amazing properties. What I like about Brian is his ability to translate complex things into stuff simple surveyors can understand. In this case he told the audience that graphene is a material so strong and light that a ‘sheet’ of it 1 atom thick (that’s about one millionth the thickness of a human hair) could support an elephant balanced on a pin…

The second is the new radio Telescope Array which is being built across 1 sq km – outside Capetown and Perth. This will be the most sensitive telescope ever built. It will permit scientists to watch pulsars as they fall into black holes. It might also be able to detect life on other planets. It is so sensitive that it will be able to detect an airports radar system on a planet 50 light years away.

Brian Cox lit up when he started to talk about the latter two discoveries then asked for questions. Someone made that terrible error of asking a question – which I raised my eyebrows about. “How far into a black hole will the telescope be able to see”. Schoolboy error. Stunned silence as the audience wondered if the gentleman had realised what he had asked. Even I know that you can’t see into a black hole. Doh.

I do wonder though how that elephant is going to balance on a pin. Sounds pretty far-fetched to me.

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One comment on “Questions at conferences – and a schoolboy error

  1. Pingback: The City Message? | Tim Garratt's Blog

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